Jetstar fined for breaching FWA
Written on the 13 March 2014
JETSTAR’S plans to cut costs by training workers overseas has backfired, with a Federal Court judge fining two associated companies $90,000.
Jetstar Group Pty Ltd and Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd have each been fined $45,000 in the Federal Court in Sydney after admitting to breaching the Fair Work Act.
The case, involving six cadet pilots who were unlawfully made to pay for their own training, was taken up by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The employer made $17,000 in deductions from the cadets’ wages between June and September 2011 despite receiving advice the deductions were against workplace laws. They were made from all six pilots’ wages, including one pilot who had refused to agree to the deductions.
The money was returned in November 2011 following a legal challenge by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots.
Justice Robert Buchanan found that Jetstar continued to pursue plans to recover training costs from the cadet pilots despite advice that this was unlawful under Australia’s Air Pilots Award 2010.
“The respondents used their vastly superior bargaining power to effectively brush aside any personal resistance by cadet pilots, not desisting until the AFAP stepped in,” says Justice Buchanan.
“The conduct of Jetstar Group and Jetstar Airways was calculated solely by reference to their assessment of their own commercial interests and their determination that the cadet pilots should be ultimately responsible for the cost of their training.”
The pilots were recruited between October, 2010 and January, 2011 and were employed on New Zealand individual contracts through a New Zealand-based Jetstar subsidiary while they underwent six months of training.
At the conclusion of the training, the cadet pilots’ employment was transferred to Australian entity Jetstar Group.
Justice Buchanan said that there was a lack of evidence of contrition or remorse from Jetstar and the companies “undertook their contravening conduct notwithstanding advice that what they were proposing to do, and did do, was contrary to the Award and the Fair Work Act”.
Buchanan imposed penalties at 68 per cent of the available maximum, saying “it is appropriate to mark the Court’s disapproval of what was done”.
“A penalty should be fixed, if possible, with a view to ensuring that the risk of punishment is not seen as an acceptable cost of doing business.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s separate legal proceedings against Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd, as well as Singapore company Valuair Limited and Thai company Tour East (T.E.T.) Limited are ongoing.
In these proceedings the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that cabin crew employed by Valuair and Tour East (T.E.T.) to work on domestic flights for Jetstar were subject to Australian workplace laws.
These allegations are being contested by Valuair, Tour East (T.E.T.) and Jetstar Airways. A hearing is scheduled for April 7 in the Federal Court in Sydney.